Zero-hours contracts — what’s the controversy?

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By Alison Downie

The current controversy over the issue of zero-hours contracts is focused on the fact that they leave workers with little stability or security, uncertain about earnings and vulnerable to exploitation by their employers.

While a generous interpretation of zero-hours contracts may describe the arrangement as one in which the worker is placed on an equal footing with their employer, and so is free to accept or refuse work when offered, in most zero-hours contracts the worker is in fact required to be available when or if called upon and to accept work when offered.

In practice, a significant percentage of workers engaged under zero-hours contracts work regular hours, for the same employer, but with limited access to employment rights, lower wages and no job security…

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